My Mandela Tribute Ride and More Song Suggestions

Last week after the death of Nelson Mandela, I posted a link to a moving song called “Free Nelson Mandela” by Special (AKA). There were some wonderful comments on that post with song suggestions from Julieanne and Sharon. Sharon is from South Africa, living in Toronto. She taught a moving tribute ride and sent me even more song suggestions via e-mail and told me about her ride. Being from South Africa made it so much more personal.

This song in her playlist is especially moving. Sharon says about this song:

I am South African and Sunday morning I did a tribute ride to Mandela (Madiba). I started the class with this song. It is truly amazing when there is silence and all you hear is this amazing African music. And then when you think it is finished he calls Nelson Mandela on stage and he says a few words (put it really loud). Emotional!

Here is how Sharon introduced her ride:

As I started I spoke about the struggle that Mandela went through and how he came out just looking for peace, never holding any hate even toward the people who put him away.

I also told them that Mandela was put in prison in 1964, a year before I was born. I left South Africa in 1991; Mandela was still in prison. Unfortunately I never lived in the new South Africa .

I remember standing in a long line in Toronto waiting to vote for our new President, what an amazing experience that was!

Here are Sharon’s song suggestions:

  • Asimbonanga, Johnny Clegg (With Nelson Mandela)
  • Vuli Ndlela, Brenda Fassie
  • Impi, Johnny Clegg & Juluka
  • Ekenki, Miriam Makeba
  • Fever, Johnny Clegg & Juluka
  • Tanganika, African Rhythms
  • Utshani Obulele (Zulu Version), Johnny Clegg
  • Gumboots, Paul Simon
  • African Percussion, Miriam Makeba
  • Umoja, Umoja
  • Grazing In the Grass, Hugh Masekela
  • Paradise Road, Umoja
  • Pata Pata, Miriam Makeba
  • Meadowlands, Umoja
  • Imagine, John Lennon
  • Graceland, Paul Simon
  • Mother and Child Reunion, Paul Simon
  • Diamonds on the Soles of Her Shoes, Paul Simon
  • Soweto Gospel Choir, African Dream
  • N’Kosi Sikeleli (Miriam Makeba, Ladysmith Black Mambazo, Paul Simon)

And here are Julieanne’s song suggestions and her profile:

  • Nelson Mandela (Special AKA), warm-up
  • Ain’t No Mountain High Enough, continue warm-up
  • Mandela Day (Simple Minds), flat road, fast, powerful, resistance increases 3 times or so throughout the song
  • They Dance Alone (Sting), climb. The song is slower than we usually climb to. I encouraged my students to find a challenging climb resistance, not necessarily to go with the beat as usual. Resistance increases every minute, working toward the point where you want to stand but can manage, with focus, to stay seated.
  • Ordinary Love (U2), recovery
  • Mandela (Santana), fast flat, power
  • Biko (Peter Gabriel), climb. Again much slower than normal. Start sitting, stand every time there is the chorus (Biko…Biko)
  • Where The Streets Have No Name (U2), cool-down
  • Let’s Stay Together (Maroon 5 or Al Green), stretch

I took some ideas from both of them and created my own profile for my class this morning, using their song suggestions as well as a few of my own. I also read a few quotes by Mandela. This is a small but loyal group of people (mostly women) who I ride with on Wednesday mornings. I think I had more requests for my playlist than I ever have before!

Before I share my profile, I have a story to tell. Back when I was about 12 or 13 years old, I took a summer school dance class. We learned a dance to a song that I never knew the name of but that I really, really loved. In the almost 40 years since then, I think I might have heard it once or twice. It had made a mark on me because it was such a unique song (not something I had ever heard of before) and while I remember it now like it was yesterday, it had receded to the furthest corners of my memory. Yesterday, as I was searching through some of Sharon’s song suggestions, I clicked on the song “Pata Pata” by Miriam Makeba in eMusic. It only took about three or four notes until the memories came flooding back and I realized that was the song I learned a dance to so long ago! It was similar to a line dance that kept repeating itself. Yes, in Southern California in the 1970s, I learned the South African Pata Pata! Hearing it transported me back to a place and time I hadn’t thought about in decades, and I even shed a few tears over it because every decade or so I wished I knew what that song was. I think it opened my eyes (and ears) to African and other world music. Thank you, Sharon, for taking me there!

Click here to download the profile PDF of my Mandela Tribute Ride.

Mandela Tribute Ride, by Jennifer Sage 

Free Nelson Mandela, Special AKA, The Singles Collection, 4:34 127 bpm
Warm up the legs. Introduce your theme, to celebrate the life of one of the greatest men of our generation.

Cadence Work
Souka Nayo (I Will Follow You), Baaba Maal, Nomad Soul, 6:25, 101 bpm
This is a high-cadence section; try to focus on your form as you spin your legs. Give students option to pedal slower. Mostly seated, with short standing breaks at a slower leg speed.

First Climb
Pata Pata, Miriam Makeba, Pata Pata, 3:01, 125 bpm
Kubula Ma, Karunesh, Global Spirit, 5:04, 126 bpm
8 minutes of climbing. First song, stay seated as you add resistance. Second song, add resistance and stand for 30–40 seconds, then sit back down without reducing the resistance. Continue this for the whole song if possible, standing for 30–40, then sit for 40–60 seconds at the same resistance. It becomes a very challenging climb. Of course, allow them to reduce the resistance a little while seated if they really need to.

Nkosi Sikel’ Africa, Thula Sizwe, Shine Africa, 1:50, 94 bpm
This is the South African National Anthem. 2 minutes of recovery before next climb.

As you approach the second climb, read the following quote by Nelson Mandela: “After climbing a great hill, one only finds that there are many more hills to climb.”

Second Climb
Umoja, Africa Umoja, Africa Umoja (The Spirit of Togetherness) [feat. Johnny Clegg], 3:55, 128 bpm
Fever, Johnny Clegg & Juluka, The Best of Juluka, 3:44, 138 bpm
On the first song, play with the resistance until they find a moderate climb. This will become their baseline resistance that they will not drop below. As the second song starts, tell them their legs will speed up by 5 rpm, but the baseline resistance will not change. Therefore, the seated climb becomes moderately hard instead of moderate.

Stand twice during the song. They may not need to add resistance when they stand, but if they do, make sure to reduce the resistance no lower than the baseline they had set early in the climb.

“As we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same.” ~Mandela

Fast Flat
Biko, Peter Gabriel, Shaking The Tree – 16 Golden Greats (Remastered), 7:01, 89 bpm
Imagine being on a plateau at the top of the climb. It will be a 7 minute flat at about 90 rpm. Make sure to dial in enough resistance so power output is fairly high. Imagine that at this cadence and gear, the bike would be moving pretty quickly (and therefore, intensity is just sub-threshold). Most definitely NOT easy. But it’s one of those songs where you can close your eyes and focus on the sensations of the legs, and on the breath.

The song is about Stephen Biko, another anti-apartheid activist of the 1970s who died after being captured and tortured by the police.

Third Climb
The Millenium Bell, Mike Oldfield, Millenium Bell, 7:22, 132 bpm
OK, back to high-energy fun! The song has a lot of great energy breaks that you can use for standing surges. Listen to the song and decide where you want to stand and sit. They aren’t “jumps,” but energy surges.

“Lead from the back—and let others believe they are in front.” ~Mandela

Fast Flat
Impi, Johnny Clegg & Juluka, The Best of Juluka, 4:48, 89 bpm
Allow the intensity to come down a bit. Recover the first minute, then do a few standing surges of 10–15 seconds every minute. Finish with a moderate effort so you can establish the baseline resistance for the next song.

“One of the things I learned when I was negotiating was that until I changed myself, I could not change others.” ~Mandela

High-Cadence Intervals
Diamonds On The Soles Of Her Shoes, Paul Simon, Graceland, 5:48, 111 bpm
Keep the same resistance you had on the previous song at 90 rpm. Then, in 30-second intervals, speed the legs up to the beat of the song. Hold for 30 seconds, then recover by slowing the legs, not touching the resistance. 111 rpm is fast, so focus on form.

“It always seems impossible until it’s done.” ~Mandela

Cool-down and Stretch
Ken Mouka, Wes Madiko, Welenga, 3:43, 135 bpm
Asimbonanga (Mandela), Soweto Gospel Choir, Live At The Nelson Mandela Theatre, 4:45, 160 bpm
While they are cooling down, read the full quote by Mandela from which that first quote comes from:

“I have walked that long road to freedom. I have tried not to falter; I have made missteps along the way. But I have discovered the secret that after climbing a great hill, one only finds that there are many more hills to climb. I have taken a moment here to rest, to steal a view of the glorious vista that surrounds me, to look back on the distance I have come. But I can only rest for a moment, for with freedom come responsibilities, and I dare not linger, for my long walk is not ended.”


1 Comment

  1. Hi Jennifer
    I am so happy that you like the playlist, and that I am able to give just a fraction of what you have given me over the years. Because of you and ICA I feel like I am the best I can be wanting to learn as much as I can everyday, thats why the best part of my day is going onto ICA to see what great great info you have for me .
    Honestly because of you I have become the Instructor and coach that I am today. Thank you.
    I really loved your story about the song Pata Pata, to think that a little American girl all those years ago had such a strong connection to an African song, just AMAZING !! It brought tears to my eyes

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